‘Privilege’ Exercise – racial power differentials

Have students stand in a straight line (quite close together). Request that they hold hands with the person on either side of them for as long as possible and refrain from speaking during the exercise.

Privilege Exercise

If your ancestors were forced to come to the USA, not by choice, take one step back.

If your primary ethnic identity is American, take one step forward.

If you were ever called names because of your race, class, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back.

If there were people of color who worked in your household as servants, gardeners, etc., take one step forward.

If your parents were professional, doctors, lawyers, etc., take one step forward.

If you were raised in an area where there was prostitution, drug activity, etc. take one step back.

If you ever tried to change you appearance, mannerisms, or behavior to avoid being judged or ridiculed, take one step back.

If you studied the culture of your ancestors in elementary school, take one step forward.

If you went to a school speaking a language other than English, take one step back.

If there were more than 50 books in your house when you grew up, take one step forward.

If you ever had to skip a meal or were hungry because there was not enough money to buy food when you were growing up, take one step back.

If you were brought to art galleries or plays by your parents, take one step forward.

If one of your parents were unemployed or laid off, not by choice, take one step back.

If you attended a private school or summer camp, take one step forward.

If your family ever had to move because they could not afford the rent, take one step back.

If you were told that you were beautiful, smart, and capable by your parents, take one step forward.

If you were ever discouraged from academic or jobs because of race, class, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back.

If you were ever encouraged to attend a college by your parents, take one step forward.

If prior to age 18, you took a vacation out of the country, take one step forward.

If one of your parents did not complete high school, take one step back.

If your family owned your own house, take one step forward.

If you saw members of your race, ethnic group, gender, or sexual orientation were portrayed on television in degrading roles, take one step back.

If you were ever offered a good job because of your association with a friend or family member, take one step forward.

If you were ever denied employment because of your race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back.

If you were ever paid less, treated less fairly because of your race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back.

If you were ever accused of cheating or lying because of your race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back.

If you ever inherited money or property, take a step forward.

If you had to rely primarily on public transportation, take one step back.

If you were ever stopped or questioned by the police because of your race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back.

If you were ever afraid of violence because of your race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back.

If you were generally able to avoid places that were dangerous, take one step forward.

If you ever felt uncomfortable about a joke related to your race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back.

If you were ever a victim of violence related to your race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back.

If your parents did not grow up in the United States, take one step back.

If your parents told you that you could be anything you wanted to be, take one step forward.

Ask participants to remain where they are to look at their position in the room or space in relation to the positions of the other participants. Ask participants to pick someone from an opposite position with which to process the exercise.

Questions:

What are your thoughts and feelings about this exercise?

Were you surprised? Why?

If time permits or if relevant:

Would your placement have been different if the exercise included questions about disability or religion?

How could affirmative action impact these issues?

Take about 10 minutes for the pairs to process and then have them report back to the group as a whole.

via ‘Privilege’ Exercises

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